Harney reveals hep C and HIV assurance plan

MORE than a year after the Government promised a statutory scheme to allow people infected with hepatitis C and HIV obtain life assurance, a bill legislating for the scheme has finally been published.

The Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2006, when enacted, will give those who received contaminated blood products — administered by the State — reasonable access to the assurance market otherwise unavailable or available at a prohibitive cost.

Unveiling the bill yesterday, Tánaiste and Health Minister Mary Harney said it would also offer mortgage protection for recipients of infected blood and blood products.

Ms Harney said it was clear for many years that infected people’s inability to buy life assurance or mortgage protection policies added “further problems to the damage they had already suffered”.

“This is an important measure to provide further support to people, mainly women, diagnosed with hepatitis C and HIV as a result of contaminated blood products being administered to them,” Ms Harney said.

Under the scheme, the State will pay the additional risk premium where the life assurer is willing to provide cover, subject to an additional premium; where the assurer is not willing to provide cover, the State will assume the risk. In each case the person requiring assurance will pay the average basic premium an uninfected person of the same age/gender would pay.

The bill also allows for the development of a scheme for travel insurance.

The Health Service Executive will oversee the scheme. The estimated cost is €1 million to €6.4m per year.

The key provisions of the scheme include:

nLife assurance to age 75, with a maximum cover of €400,000 or seven times the income of the eligible participant or his/her partner, or both, in respect of the tax year in which the proposal is submitted, up to a maximum of €500,000.

nMortgage protection cover up to age 75 on purchasing, changing or improving the primary residence, up to an overall maximum of the average house price (Dublin) + 25% or €375,000, indexed with TSB/ESRI (Dublin) house price inflation.

Yesterday, Transfusion Positive, representing people infected with hep C through contaminated products supplied by the State, said it needed time to study the proposed legislation. The group was one of several to meet with Ms Harney yesterday to discuss the bill.

Positive Action, which represents women who contracted hep C through contaminated Anti-D, the Irish Kidney Association and the Irish Haemophilia Society were also present.

The bill was published on the eve of a conference, Moving Forward With Hepatitis C, which will look at clinical and patient aspects of hep C, which kicks off today at Dublin Castle.

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